Don’t skimp on Power Distribution Units

By Inus Dreckmeyr, CEO at Netshield South Africa

You may think buying ‘dumb’ power distribution units (PDUs) instead of intelligent or smart PDUs will save you money. It won’t. In fact what buying smart PDUs can do is save a business from ruining expensive equipment.

Yesterday’s PDUs started out as the server cabinet equivalent of the multiplugs we use in our homes. They were mounted on the cabinets that contain computing equipment, and had a series of power ports to provision computing equipment with power.

Today’s smart PDUs take this to a new level by measuring the amount of power supplied to the cabinet itself, which helps to keep track of how much power is being used by the equipment housed there, or the actual rack. This becomes particularly important when additional equipment such as an extra hard drive is added to an existing machine or blade.

Researchers Technavio say the global data centre rack PDU market is growing at a CAGR of 12.5% till 2019, and that intelligent PDUs are growing nearly twice as fast.  They say this growth is being fuelled by the smart PDU’s ability to monitor and track power consumption in the data centre environment. Infiniti Research adds that the increased complexity of data centre servers is a key challenge that the market faces.

So what does this mean for South Africa? At a cabinet level, the smaller form factors that computing equipment is now made in means that more individual pieces of equipment will be housed in a single cabinet or rack. This results in the density of power ports needed per cabinet increasing, which in turn is driving a greater demand for electricity supplied to the cabinet, and the very real possibility of the system being overloaded.

With increased port density, equipment starts tripping and overheating and the risk of fire in the environment grows. Smart PDUs prevent this by keeping track of the power consumption per rack or cabinet, a job that would be a logistical nightmare if done manually. Think about it, a telco or ISP with two or three data centres has to keep track of each individual rack’s power consumption – across hundreds of racks and in multiple locations.

This just isn’t feasible without a management system that automates the gathering of data related to power consumption and usage patterns like smart PDUs do. Over and above the risks already mentioned, there are other dangers such as not being able to deliver to a client’s agreed SLA levels, or a loss of reputation because of network outages, not to mention potential data loss as a result of downtime.

The clever move is to invest in class 1 metered smart PDUs that can be expanded at a relatively low costs, by adding power ports and sensor hubs for monitoring temperature, humidity, flooding and smoke gas within the cabinet. This gives a view of power management, and a holistic view of the full environment. After all, detection fuels proactive prevention, and that ultimately ensures your systems are not only running optimally – but are also relatively risk free.